Republic of Upper Volta

Republic of Upper Volta
République de Haute-Volta (French)
Motto: "Unité – Travail – Justice" (in French)
"Unity – Work – Justice"
Anthem: "Hymne National Voltaïque"
Location of Upper Volta
Common languagesFrench (official)
Mossi, Fula, Gourmanché, Bambara
Sunni Islam
Traditional religions
Demonym(s)Upper Voltese
GovernmentOne-party presidential republic (1960–1966)
Military dictatorship (1966–1984)
• 1959–1966
Maurice Yaméogo
• 1966–1980
Sangoulé Lamizana
• 1980–1982
Saye Zerbo
• 1982–1983
Jean-Baptiste Ouédraogo
• 1983–1984
Thomas Sankara
High Commissioner 
• 1958–1959
Max Berthet
• 1959–1960
Paul Masson
Prime Minister 
• 1971–1974
Gérard Kango Ouédraogo
• 1983
Thomas Sankara
Historical eraCold War
11 December 1958
5 August 1960
3 January 1966
25 November 1980
7 November 1982
4 August 1983
• Renamed
4 August 1984
CurrencyCFA franc
Preceded by
Succeeded by
French Upper Volta
Burkina Faso
Today part ofBurkina Faso

The Republic of Upper Volta (French: République de Haute-Volta) was a landlocked West African country established on 11 December 1958 as a self-governing colony within the French Community.[1][2] Before becoming autonomous, it had been part of the French Union as the French Upper Volta. On 5 August 1960, it gained full independence from France.[3] On 4 August 1984, it changed its name to Burkina Faso.


Map showing the Volta River in Upper Volta

The name Upper Volta indicated that the country contains the upper part of the Volta River.


Upper Volta obtained independence on 5 August 1960, with Maurice Yaméogo of the Voltaic Democratic Union-African Democratic Rally (UDV-RDA) becoming the country's first president. A constitution was ratified the same year, establishing presidential elections by direct universal suffrage and a National Assembly with five-year terms. Shortly after coming to power, Yaméogo banned all political parties other than the UDV-RDA. He had shown a deep authoritarian streak even before then, however; between the time he became prime minister of Upper Volta while it was still a French colony and independence two years later, opposition parties were subjected to increased harassment.

On 3 January 1966, Yaméogo was overthrown in a coup d'état led by army chief of staff Sangoulé Lamizana. Although multiparty democracy was nominally restored four years later, Lamizana dominated the country's politics until he was himself overthrown in 1980.

After a series of short-term presidencies, Thomas Sankara then came to power through a military coup d'état on 4 August 1983.[4] After the coup, he formed the National Council for the Revolution (CNR), with himself as president. Under the direction of Sankara, the country changed its name on 4 August 1984, from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, which means "Land of Incorruptible People".[5]


From 1958 to 1960, the Republic of Upper Volta was led by a high commissioner:

  • Max Berthet (11 December 1958 to February 1959),
  • Paul Masson (February 1959 to 5 August 1960).

From 1971 to 1987, the Republic of Upper Volta was led by a prime minister:



The colours of the national flag corresponded to the names of its three main tributaries: the Black Volta, the White Volta and the Red Volta.[6] The flag was identical to that of the German Empire.

National HymnEdit

This anthem was replaced in 1984 by a new anthem, the Ditanyè.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Burkina Faso". Afripedia. Archived from the original on 11 February 2017. Retrieved 9 February 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  2. ^ "Field Listing: National Holiday". The World Factbook. CIA. Archived from the original on 22 September 2020. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  3. ^ Meredith, Martin (2013). The State of Africa. Simon & Schuster. p. 69. ISBN 9780857203885.
  4. ^ "Thomas Sankara". Encyclopedia Britannica. Archived from the original on 10 October 2016. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  5. ^ "More (Language of the Mossi Tribe) Phrase Book". World Digital Library. Archived from the original on 23 November 2018. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  6. ^ "Upper Volta (Burkina Faso, 1959-1984)". Flags of the World. Archived from the original on 20 September 2020. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
12°16′N 2°4′W / 12.267°N 2.067°W / 12.267; -2.067